The New York Yacht Club (NYYC) has submitted a challenge for the 37th America’s Cup to the current Defender, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) in Auckland, New Zealand. The challenge was accompanied by a draft protocol for the regatta, which would see the Cup take place in New Zealand during early 2024, utilizing the AC75 class, but with some major modifications to the event’s management.
In an accompanying statement, NYYC Commodore Christopher J. Culver expressed concerns about the event’s format undermining viability. “The New York Yacht Club, as the original trustee of the event and a participant in the most recent edition, has serious concerns about the future of this great competition,” He said. “The cost of a competitive campaign, the lack of continuity in the class and the inability to plan beyond the current cycle have combined to create a prohibitive barrier to entry, which has manifested in the dwindling number of challengers and public interest. While we await further details on the location, timing and conditions for the 37th America’s Cup, we want to emphatically signal our enthusiasm for a multi-challenger event in 2024.”
This is a serious criticism, and it smacks of serious changes. The proposed protocol consists of five key points, some of which will be much more significant changes than others if implemented. They are as follows:
1. The creation of an America’s Cup Board of Governors, which will independently manage the event.
2. Cost-control measures including a standard three-year cycle, an increase in one-design components and a limit of one new boat per cycle.
3. Consistency in design and a commitment to using the AC75 again in the next America’s Cup.
4. Stronger nationality requirements for crews in order to promote local investment and competition.
5. A multi-event schedule that will allow for teams, sponsors and media to maximize coverage, planning and revenue opportunities.
After several controversies surrounding the Defender in 2020, the Board of Governors may be a critique of the RNZYS’s handling of issues like impartial course selection and fund mismanagement. It would be a blow to the “but we’ve always done it this way” mindset that accompanies the oldest running sporting trophy, but that by no means implies that it wouldn’t make things better, with fairness and transparency on the line. As for the standardization aimed at reducing costs, there were several teams in the 36th Cup that fell to the wayside due to cost, including a second American team. Price reduction will certainly rekindle the hopes of less established teams and is intended to make the event more accessible. Keeping the same boat for another edition shouldn’t shake things up too much from the spectator’s perspective as we barely got to see the AC75 race given the shortened season. Nationality requirements are a bit of a gamble for the Americans who’ve leaned heavily on poaching stars from other countries in recent years, but again, they’re not new. Finally, the scheduling strategy seems to also have already been in the works last edition with the America’s Cup World Series, though it was laid waste by the early-pandemic lock downs. We’ll see more racing, which may make for happy spectators, especially if the added events are again scheduled for a variety of venues outside of New Zealand that will draw local fans.
Click here for the full draft of the protocol.